Sen. Portman: Reid's Keystone comments 'very positive' for energy efficiency bill

Portman was referring to comments Reid made on Keystone last week in a media call.

The Nevada Democrat said, “There’s going to come a time when we'll vote on it. That's fine. It doesn't bother me at all,” later adding it was “perhaps even germane or relevant” to the energy efficiency bill Portman has co-sponsored with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

If the statement wasn’t bluster, that would represent a significant change of heart for Reid.

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Senate aides say Reid’s refusal to allow votes on Keystone and other politically contentious issues, such as climate change, sunk a similar version of the energy efficiency bill last year.

The Senate has since voted to endorse the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which is currently under federal review for a cross-border permit. A March vote on the nonbinding Senate Democratic budget proposal calling for its approval attracted 62 votes, 17 of them from Democrats.

In the meantime, Portman told reporters that he and Shaheen are working with their colleagues on possible amendments. He said they “have a sense” of the type and number of amendments on the table.

“We’re ready to go. The way the Senate operates, you don’t know for sure until you put a bill on the floor and start working it. That’s when you make progress,” he said.

This year’s iteration would encourage a host of energy efficiency upgrades at commercial, residential and industrial buildings. It sailed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month.

It also would spur adoption of energy-saving technologies at big manufacturers and federal buildings, establish voluntary efficiency standards for new building codes and create a state-based private financing program for energy efficiency.

Gone are authorizations for a federal loan guarantee program for energy efficiency and for a state revolving grant program, as the sponsors noted some fiscal conservatives objected to those measures.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us to show the American people that we can get something done,” Portman said.